For almost 23 years, the 10th Georgia House Congressional District has been represented by a white, Republican man. But this year, a 46-year-old black woman is vying for her chance to take the seat and flip the district.
Tabitha Johnson-Green, a political newcomer and registered nurse in Washington County, raked in the Democratic votes during the primary election in May, ending the night with more than twice as many votes than either of her opponents. If elected in November, Johnson-Green will advocate for Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges and universities and mandatory background checks on all gun purchases.
Johnson-Green is the first Democrat to face incumbent Jody Hice since he was first elected in 2014.
University of Georgia associate professor of political science Anthony Madonna said he thinks the Democratic community is “happy to have someone running that post” against Hice since he ran unopposed in 2016 for reelection.
This time, much like his last two elections, Hice is pushing to repeal Obamacare, challenge the Roe v. Wade decision over abortion, push the Fair Tax Act, which would replace the income tax and others with a flat sales tax, and push back against illegal immigration.
In terms of campaign finances, Hice has raised more than $600,000 within this election cycle as of Sept. 30, funded mainly by political action committees, business owners, executives and retired individuals, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission.
Johnson-Green has only raised a fraction of that amount with about $17,000 accounted for in contributions as of Sept. 30. More than $5,200 of that amount has come from her own wallet, according to FEC data.
As of the end of September, Johnson-Green has roughly $2,600 still left on hand, whereas Hice still has about $207,000.
Max Rogers, a junior microbiology major working on Johnson-Green’s campaign, said he’s not worried about the difference in funding because he watched the Democratic candidate ask potential voters about their concerns, rather than asking them to donate to her campaign.
“Hice has a lot more money than Tabitha does, but I wouldn’t confuse it for a difference in support,” Rogers said. “I’m not saying he’s bought and sold, but if you follow the money, there might be an indication that Tabitha has the support of the people in the 10th District and Jody Hice has the support of the businesses in it.”
Defying the odds
Through he recognizes the difficulty in flipping the district from red to blue, Rogers said his conversations while canvassing have encouraged him to believe there is a chance Johnson-Green could win.
“It’s definitely more winnable now than it ever has been,” he said.
“I understand the needs of the everyday citizen. I know what it’s like to struggle, I know what it’s like to choose between paying a light bill, buying groceries or paying for overpriced prescription meds.”
- Tabitha Johnson-Green, Democratic candidate for District 10
Madonna, however, isn’t convinced.
“It would take a series of very unlikely events for that [the seat to be flipped] to happen,” Madonna said. “You’d need a massive blue wave and probably a big scandal, too, on top of it.”
Charles Bullock, professor of political science, said the idea of the district flipping is so unlikely that “the infidels in hell will be holding an ice carnival” if it happens.
Still, Johnson-Green is continuing to campaign on a platform she describes as being for the “everyday citizens” of the district she grew up in.
“I understand the needs of the everyday citizen. I know what it’s like to struggle, I know what it’s like to choose between paying a light bill, buying groceries or paying for overpriced prescription meds,” Johnson-Green said when asked about her stance of raising the minimum wage at the Atlanta Press Club District 10 debate on Oct. 23.
She went on to talk about her visions for healthcare — a single-payer system where everyone receives coverage.
Johnson-Green’s progressive stance stems largely from her time working as a registered nurse in Washington County for 20 years. While there, she formed a non-emergency medical transportation system to help patients travel to and from their appointments.
“She wants to see people have access to the healthcare that they deserve,” Rogers said.
Since early voting began, Johnson-Green has received support from some members of the Athens community who believe in her community-driven ideas.
“I think she’s got the community’s interest at heart rather than some other agenda,” said Chris Bartenfeld, an electrical contractor from Athens.
Others, however, are staying true to their Republican roots.
“I’m voting for him probably because I am a Republican,” said Laurel Whitmire, a marketing consultant from Bishop. “I think he’s very fiscally responsible. He’s very conservative, I like that.”
Looking back at history
Four years before he was elected for the District 10 seat in 2014, Hice put in his congressional bid for District 7 while serving as a pastor in North Georgia.
“Hice has all of the advantages."
- Charles Bullock, political science professor
As Hice prepared for the District 7 election, he used the scope of his radio show, the Jody Hice Show, to help gain traction in the polls, though he lost to Rob Woodall.
“We really, really ask for your prayers as we come through these last several days for that congressional run,” Hice said to his radio audience.
Hice faced pushback from the Internal Revenue Service for these comments because the show was funded by a nonprofit organization, Let Freedom Ring, that is required to remain nonpartisan, adhering to the Johnson Amendment.
Today, Hice’s stance is the same as it was a decade ago: repeal the Johnson Amendment. He said in a newsletter he believes President Donald Trump is right to abolish the amendment because it is an unconstitutional limitation on the rights of free speech.
Since elected to represent District 10 in 2014, Hice has cultivated a community of Republican followers who support his leadership throughout the district.
Part of Hice’s work in the district has resulted in passed bills benefitting the agriculture sector by changing the limits on farm ownership loans.
He was also awarded the “Hero of Main Street” title for his support of small businesses by the National Retail Federation in September 2018. Hice has sponsored bills that protect victims from sex offenders and recently introduced a bill to help President Trump submit plans to Congress to reorganize the federal government.
“Hice has all of the advantages,” Bullock said. “He’s been in office for [...] two terms, he’s been campaigning, he’s been visible in the district. In parts of the district, he’s been visible for around eight years now.”